01 December 2011

British Newspaper Archive - review

The much anticipated British Newspaper Archive is online!  It boasts 3,088,748 pages as of the end of November with a promise of adding 8,000 new pages every day. In ten years time up to 40 million pages are promised, and if history is anything to go by that will be achieved sooner. 9,695 pages were added the first day.

I was interested to find out what's available, and how likely you are to find what you're looking for -- if it was printed, and what it costs.

Availability is easy and well documented. There are presently 174 titles in the collection, 145 from England, 19 from Scotland, 6 from Wales, 3 from Ireland, and 1 from the Isle of Man.

According to the website "The first stage of this project focuses on runs published before 1900 and includes titles from cities such as Birmingham, Derby, Manchester, Nottingham, Norwich, Leeds and York, along with local titles from London boroughs." Here are the top 20 papers which have the most issues available.

Newspaper Issues Years 
Morning Post  22256 1801-1900 
Caledonian Mercury  19165 1720-1867 
Western Times  15724 1827-1940 
London Standard  14043 1827-1900 
London Daily News  12438 1846-1900 
Dundee Courier  11251 1844-1900 
Freeman's Journal  11043 1820-1900 
Belfast News-Letter  10776 1828-1900 
Morning Chronicle  10655 1801-1865 
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser  10496 1825-1903 Glasgow Herald  9521 1820-1900 
Birmingham Daily Post  9216 1857-1900 
Leeds Mercury  8775 1807-1900 
Manchester Evening News  8551 1870-1903 
Sheffield Independent  8181 1819-1900 
York Herald  8167 1801-1900 
Liverpool Mercury  7465 1811-1900 
Nottingham Evening Post  7113 1878-1944 
Aberdeen Journal  7064 1798-1900 
Bristol Mercury  6828 1716-1900  

Indicated in red are newspapers that also have content on the 19th Century British Library Newspaper online collection, sometimes more, sometimes less. To save, if working on a pay per view basis, it would be wise to investigate availability there, often free at a public access site such as the LDS Family History Centres.

A couple of newspapers are represented by only single issues, the "Ayr Advertiser, or, West Country Journal" and the "Elgin Courant, and Morayshire Advertiser". 

Assessing how likely you are to find what you're looking for, if it was printed, is much less certain. Here are two examples of the snippet view you can view for free as a result of a search showing the quality of the text recognition.  

f Mr. Robert Digby, of Barrow ; Mrs. Briggs, wife of Mr. Henry Briggs, of the Plumber's Arms, Denston ; Mrs. Webb, wife of Mr. Webb, a respectable farmer, of Brebbenham. Corn Returns. — Prices of wheat made at the Corn Exchange. Week ending July 6 ... ?
As yet there is no study of the quality of the text recognition. It is likely to be quite variable from paper to paper as found in the study of the 19th Century British Library Newspaper collection. On average, there was about a 2 in 3 chance of a proper name being correctly recognized in the 19th Century British Library Newspaper collection study.

A welcome feature is the capability, pioneered by the National Library of Australia, to allow users to correct text.

Finally, what does it cost?

A 2 day package of 500 credits is £6.95 GBP; a 30 day package of 3,000 credits is £29.95 GB.

What do you get for a credit? Viewing a B&W page over 107 years old costs 5 credits, a colour scanned page over 107 years old costs 10 credits. They new scanning is being done in colour. A more recent page (within 107 years) 15 credits. 

A full year unlimited subscription is £79.95 GBP, about $128 Canadian.

I suggest trying it. Searching and viewing the snippet result is free.

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